Friday, May 27, 2011

CYH's Workout Song of Summer 2011: Work That by Mary J. Blige

I've been obsessed with getting my cardio in these days and have turned into such a gym rat but am loving every moment of it. I love doing my cardio to fun, poppy music that gets me going. My best friend, Jessica, from college recommended this song to me and it's taken the number one spot on my ipod during my workouts. PERFECT for me, right now, exactly where I am with everything!

Wednesday, May 18, 2011

Surrendering to the Wave of Silence

I've just returned from my first silent retreat. This was a 3-day retreat on the Jersey shore at the lovely beach sanctuary, Stella Maris Retreat Center. Our group was guided by Dr. Stephen Parker, an initiate of the Himalayan Tradition (the lineage of my yoga), who was simply amazing. It was me, my yoga mat, my journal, a few books, my sketchbook, a bar of dark chocolate with cherries and a meditation shawl. No computer, emails, cell phone, iPod or any other distracting device. It was to say the least, an experience of pure bliss.

These past months leading up to this retreat, I've had a very different idea of how my 3 days of silence would go. Surprisingly, it went the complete opposite. I had imagined it to be a time of reflection where my inner darkness would prevail without the ability to express myself through speech, leaving me in this 3-day saddened state of tears and some kind of an overall breakdown. To be honest, I had that the weekend before at my weekend trip to Kripalu for Tara Stile's workshop! I stayed with a girlfriend of mine in Massachusetts and we did nothing but engage in long emotional talks where we'd cry our eyes out, console one another with whatever wisdom we could, then go and practice yoga in between, HA! This went on the whole weekend for us. However, this silent experience was much different.

By silencing, I was able to clear my mind by listening to nature surrounding me. I could hear my thoughts and therefore was able to analyze them appropriately with my heart as my guide. A smile graced my face almost every moment of my silence. I finally got to the point where when a question in my mind would come up, my inner dialogue would compassionately answer it. All I heard for the full 3 days were the waves crashing on the shore, lovely birds singing their Spring song and the occasional seagull squawking above to remind me that we were on the beach.

What I noticed during my silence:

Loud to soft thoughts.

Hours into my silence, I noticed how LOUD my thoughts were. My mind was racing so fast, continuously and was extra obnoxious. But as time went on and I got deeper into my silence, my thoughts calmed. My inner dialogue spoke in a soft, slow voice. Thoughts were soothing, gentle and I was able to think much more clearly.

Radio 24/7.
There is a constant radio station playing in my head. There is always a song being played in the back of my mind all day, throughout everything, even as I sleep! The songs change ev
ery few hours and are accompanied by a loud and obnoxious radio station host (my mind!) talking over the music. I actually have to imagine pressing a STOP button in my mind to turn off the station!

Slow down, become mindful.
Silence allowed me to slow down, especially during mealtime. Slowing down during meals and not speaking with others allows you to be present with your food and eat mindfully. Every meal I had I kept saying to myself how it was the BEST I've ever had, but in actuality I was just tasting and enjoying the food in front of me! I ate much less and walked away satisfied.

Meditation fills you up.
Meditating creates inner peace, allowing love and appreciation for your life, body and world around you that you can't help but become enveloped with peace. I sometimes tend to overeat, to fill something up inside me that food will never be able to satisfy. Or sometimes I'll talk badly about something or someone to make myself feel better in that brief moment, but then feel awful afterwards leaving me feeling more empty than full. The fullness that a meditation practice brings fills you up, allowing you to no longer desire to overeat, or act out of poor behavior.

Inner peace is there, always.
The core of our being is peace. We all have silence within us, it's just a matter of tapping into that stillness and knowing how to access it during times of need. A consistent meditation practice will allow you to become aware of this peace, a silent retreat such as what I just went on, or it can be as simple as deepening your breath for a few moments each day to connect with your true nature.

The few words I uttered by accident during my silence:

"Namaste." - at the end of one of the yoga


"Thank you." - only whispered once, another habit!

"Is there dairy in this?" - of course I uttered this. I should have just made a sign of all my dietary needs for the chef to answer at each meal!

"Mmmm" - about 9 times with each bite of a chocolate chip zucchini walnut bread that I allowed myself to have after dinner one night. It was divine!

"Achoo!" - the sea breeze was whisking around dandelion seeds each day, what can I say.

My first thought when I woke up at 5am this morning was of a vivid wave slowly crashing. I observed each and every detail of that wave and heard each splash it made. With my eyes still closed from sleep, I smiled and knew in that moment, I had surrendered to the wave of silence.

Wednesday, May 4, 2011

10 Suggestions to Help or Prevent Hair Loss

Hair is a living protein, and as with any part of our bodies we must be sure to maintain proper health to optimize the chances of continuing to grow a healthy head of hair. Causes of hair loss can be hereditary, stress related, hormonal disturbances or nutritional deficiencies. Proper nutrition is vital to hair loss prevention, since the hair is a living and growing part of the body’s system. A healthy balanced diet, exercise, stress management and a few natural remedies may all aid in your hair loss prevention efforts. Remember, the restoration of hair growth is not an overnight process. The process takes time regardless of the method chosen. Be patient and don’t give up!

Hair loss in men and women may be due to different factors. Women's hair loss may be due to a gastrointestinal (GI) tract problem. To help correct a sluggish GI tract, women may want to increase their intake of probiotics. These helpful bacteria will help to speed the GI tract and, in turn, improve the overall health of hair.

Men may benefit from a low saturated fat diet. Hair loss is tied to elevated testosterone levels, and meat/dairy saturated fat in the diet act to raise these levels even more. By reducing saturated animal fat from poor quality meat/dairy intake, men may be able to lower their hormone levels and thus slow the hair loss cycle caused by hormones.  Please note, saturated fats from healthy raised, grass-fed animals are OK!  So are saturated fats like grass-fed butter, coconut oil and avocados.  

Keep in mind that the body is a system, and it is the abuse of this system by improper nutrition and environmental causes that lead to most common hair loss. Through returning the body back to its natural state, hair loss may be able to be prevented and restored. Yippee!!!

10 Suggestions to help or prevent hair loss:

1. Chill out. Never underestimate how stress is effecting your body. When we're stressed, it seeps out wherever it can. Make it a priority to take a few deep breaths sometime each day. No matter how stressed we are or how busy we are, we have the ability to take deep breaths and as soon as we deepen the breath, our mind instantly relaxes. It's a tool that you always have available to you, so use it and breathe deep as often as you can!

2. Coconut oil massage. Massage your scalp with about a 1/4 of a teaspoon of coconut oil each day. You can keep a bottle of coconut oil right there in your bathroom and steal some whenever you need to cook with it. A daily massage of coconut oil with lime water is also effective.

3. Ginger. Ginger has circulatory agents that help stimulate the hair follicle's growth cycle. Additionally ginger is rich in fatty acids which are recommended for hair loss, and the thinning of the hair shaft. Start to add ginger to your stir fries, soups, sauces, etc. You can also drink ginger tea which is delicious and a natural anti-inflammatory.

4. Green tea. May help correct hormone imbalances. Try green tea for your mooring jolt instead of a cup of joe. (Try this gradually if you are a caffeine addict) Cool thing, it's loaded with antioxidants that will do the rest of your body good, too!

5. Aloe vera. Clinical studies show that aloe vera enhances cellular rejuvenation and provides the building blocks for hair proteins. Additionally, its anti-inflammatory properties protect against damage to the scalp and hair. If you weren't feeling the coconut oil massage, give this a try instead. Either purchase a bottle of it or keep a plant of it somewhere in your place. They are lovely and healing on so many levels!

6. Eat a balanced diet. Be sure to eat whole, natural foods as often as possible. When we eat foods from nature, our bodies can assimilate all of the natural goodness these foods contain, allowing our bodies to function at their best! Culprits in your diet that are actually detrimental to your hair include caffeine, sugar, saturated fat (from too much factory-farmed animal products) and carbonated drinks…so beware.

7. Fatty acids. Fish provides fatty acids, necessary for the maintenance of healthy hair and skin. Fatty acids found in fish are also effective as a protection mechanism against high cholesterol, heart disease and helps to lower blood pressure. Incorporate some seaweed into your diet. Walnuts and chia seeds are a great source of omega-3s, too!

8. Vitamin C. Vitamin C in oranges, dark leafy greens, bell peppers, kiwis and goji berries are an excellent supply of collagen, vital for hair growth, helps prevent hair loss and assists the body to absorb iron from protein sources such as meat in our daily diets.

9. Vitamin E, B vitamins, iron, zinc, biotin and silica. Soybeans are useful as they contain large amounts of vitamin E, protein and iron. Iron is important in the production of hemoglobin - hemoglobin is an element that carries oxygen in the blood to all the tissues and major organs of the body and normal hemoglobin levels ensures adequate flow of blood to the scalp for hair growth stimulation (vitamin E also assists in the increased flow of blood to the scalp).

An extremely good source of vitamin B6A and zinc can be found in the miracle food chickpeas. These two elements nourish the hair, promote hair growth and prevent loss of hair while zinc and Vitamin A combine well in preventing dandruff and loss of hair.

Biotin is a B vitamin involved in the production of energy. Symptoms of a biotin deficiency may include thinning of the hair. You can find it in supplement form or in a number of foods such as cauliflower, salmon, bananas, carrots, egg yolks (yes, eat the whole egg!), legumes, mushrooms, nutritional yeast and sardines.

Silica and iron are significant in promoting hair growth and are provided by whole grains (that have not been processed) and believe it or not, beer! The predominant task of silica is assisting the body to absorb the many minerals and vitamins that it requires to function optimally. Most modern American diets lack whole grains so do not supply sufficient amounts of silica which may contribute to loss of hair. Cook up that brown rice and enjoy a high quality brewsky!

10. Trail mix it up. It is not generally known that almonds help in preventing hair loss. They are a wonderful source of iron, protein and vitamin E (all critical elements in ensuring healthy hair and hair growth stimulation).  Add some walnuts (for those omega-3s and deliciousness) along with your favorite other dried fruits and/or seeds for a yummy snack on the go.